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Dolphins defensive ends: Better, worse, or same in 2016?

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A position by position look at the Miami Dolphins’ roster, and whether the team is better, worse, or the same as the 2015 roster.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Miami Dolphins Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Phinsider series taking a look at the 2016 Miami Dolphins roster and comparing it to the 2015 version of the team continues this morning. Over the past week, we have taken one position group on the roster each day, and compared the players on the roster today to the players on the roster last year. We then attempt to decide whether the names on the roster, thus the talent Miami has this year, are better, worse, or the same as the talent on the roster in 2015

We continue our series, after having already covered all of the offense, starting with the quarterback position, and continuing through the running backs group, the wide receivers, the tight ends, and the offensive line. Today, we move to the defensive side of the ball, starting with the defensive ends.

Defensive ends

Cameron Wake
Mario Williams
Andre Branch
Terrence Fede
Chris McCain
Jason Jones
Cleyon Laing
Julius Warmsley
Farrington Huguenin
Jordan Williams

Analysis

Miami’s defensive end position has seen one of the most dramatic turnovers of personnel on the roster in 2016. The top three at the position last year were Wake, Olivier Vernon, and Derrick Shelby, but Vernon and Shelby both left after the season, signing elsewhere as free agents. To replace them, Miami brought in Mario Williams and Branch. They will also look to Fede and McCain to continue to develop into NFL pass rushers.

Jones was signed this offseason and gives Miami some flexibility to play him inside or outside on the defensive line. Laing is hoping to find the same magic that Wake found in coming from the Canadian Football League to the Dolphins.

Better, Worse, Same

Same. I’m going to go with the same here, simply because there are question marks about Vernon, who left, and about Mario Williams and Branch, who signed with Miami. Vernon is a young pass rusher, who could go on to have a great NFL career. He was paid after putting together a 7.5 sack performance over the 2015 season; in comparison, Wake, who only played 6+ games recorded 7.0 sacks last year, and Mario Williams, who has been criticized after a lackluster 2015, recorded 5.0 sacks. Will Wake, who tore an Achilles tendon against the New England Patriots last October, return to form? Will Mario Williams look like the double digit sack-master from 2012 through 2014? Will Branch, who disappointed in Jacksonville, turn into a pass rusher in Miami? Will Fede and McCain establish themselves as threats to opposing defenses? Will Vernon be so good this year that Miami will regret not re-signing him? Will Shelby do the same? There are a lot of questions that have to be answered about the defensive end position. I think Miami will have a better pass rush this year, thanks to a healthy Wake, an energized Mario Williams, and a new defensive scheme from defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, but that is not sticking to the rules of this post. Based solely on the names on the roster, I will go same, because I am not sure what Miami gave up, nor what they got back this offseason.